How is data stored on Inaturalist?

How is data stored on Inaturalist? How long? Is there a back up? Has there ever been a crash that caused a lost in data?

Thank you



you may want to take a look at other threads like this:

based on these questions, i suspect you might be contemplating a use for the system that is not really what it’s intended for. for example, i don’t think it’s intended to be a photo storage site, and i don’t think it should be used as the primary repository for critical data either.

personally, i’ve never lost any data that i’m aware of, but there definitely are infrequent bugs and reports of photos going missing, etc. if you are worried about losing information, you can always export the data, and of course, you should always keep your own copies of photos or other media that you would be sad about losing.

as far as i’m aware, the stuff that you input into the system will be there as long as you want it to be, and as long as iNaturalist continues to operate. you can help it continue to operate by occasionally providing a small cash gift (or a large one, if you are able), or by helping in other ways…


i sort of think that if you’re asking these kinds of questions, you might be contemplating a use for the system that is not really what it’s intended for. i don’t think it’s intended to be a photo storage site, and i don’t think it should be used as the primary repository for critical data either.

This is an unnecessarily hostile comment. It’s a valid question for anyone interested in whether iNat can be trusted to function as a long-term record of species occurrences and phenology.


I didn’t read it as hostile myself, in fact I always tell people to be sure to download any important data locally because it’s not like a typical community science research project (see the “what is it” page for some background on that). iNat users can choose to delete all their observations and IDs on iNaturalist at any time.


I was wondering a similar thing. I am a computer nerd, along with plants, and was wondering if it has its own servers in California, or it uses Google’s servers.


I believe but am not 100 percent certain the site uses cloud storage and technology donated by Microsoft, so it should be safe as long as that arrangement continues.


It uses Amazon cloud storage and probably the most safe way to store data on 4 continents on seven servers. I rely fully on iNat for photos and data and do not keep copies myself, actually most of it i delete within 24Hours after upload.

Yes there has been a crash and mirculous the recoverd all the data, as far as i know, with help of amazon. (or Microsoft

Our hosting company decided to do some more unplanned maintenance overnight that affected the regional portals. Everything should be back to normal right now. They have been fixing some serious security issues on their end, and unfortunately gave us little to no notice of the timing of the updates. See for more info)

– Updated

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Unless they’ve migrated since 2018 it is Azure they use, which is Microsoft not Amazon

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Probably Azure

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But once i read

Blockquote Our photos are hosted on Amazon’s servers, which are currently having difficulties (, which is why users might not be seeing photos or are able to upload photos. Your photos should be safe, just not accessible right no

and this, but is every body keeping copies of Photos ?

Blockquote n the cloud: iNat’s assets are currently stored on Amazon Web Service, and the database is stored at Rackspace, we have backups at Datapipe

i bet the photos (and things which require a lot of storage) are still stored at Amazon, and the database (and things which require lots of processing power and other miscellaneous things) are now stored at Microsoft (no longer at Rackspace / Datapipe).

i’m not exactly sure why there’s hostility being read into my earlier comment in this thread, but i’ll change my earlier wording to hopefully reduce the chances of it conveying hostility. if anyone still doesn’t like my new wording, feel free to send me suggestions in a message.


You all basically put the pieces together here, but to clarify/confirm:

  • Observation photos are stored with Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Other data is with Microsoft Azure

We keep daily backups for 2 months and monthly backups for a year. We have never had extensive data loss, but we occasionally use the backups if there was a problem with a particular account.

On a weekly basis, we make a Darwin Core Archive for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility of the appropriately-licensed subset of research-grade observations. You can read more about that subset in the dataset description.

We no longer use Rackspace or Datapipe.


In the end, we didn’t lose any data in this quoted event after all.


If it is a photo I like or is important to me for some other reason, I keep it in my own photos. If it’s just a picture I took for iNat, I often will delete it.


Just a general reminder that iNat is not intended to provide a photo backup service, and that it downsamples large images on upload:

So anyone who wants to be absolutely sure they won’t lose their images and who wants to keep large images at full resolution should probably find another backup method.


Although I have backups of all my pics from smartphone and camera, some are not necessarily worth saving (the pics are average at best). But if they are diagnostic for the subject species, they’re worth posting on iNat since they and their associated data contribute to something bigger than my personal photo collection. And when I’m gone and my photo collection likely gets lost in the digital graveyard, those pics will hopefully still be in the iNat database.


It should also be noted the site offers no, and has no plans to offer an ability to bulk download photos, so if you still insist on using the site as your backup and need it, you will be re-downloading your photos one at a time.

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